Going through my husband's desk drawers, book shelves, and filing cabinets for things to give his daughters was exhausting, amusing, surprising, and made my partially mechanical heart break all over again. He had this habit of taking notes while reading anything of jotting down in miniature print, either quotes he liked or took umbrage with, complete with date and page number. He wrote on index cards, both sides, stapled together, upper left corner.
This habit gradually changed as he slipped into Alzheimers' when I started noticing he was writing down in four different colors a comparison of Pepsi prices at the three different locations Pepsi could be purchased downtown. We all just thought it a manifestation of his obsessive compulsive nature, even laughed at the time. Later, still prior to the official diagnosis I noticed he was writing down what he ate, when he took his vitamins, and when the cats went outside or were missing. He visited his older daughter in Colorado, flying out the day before Hurricane Sandy and she called me, annoyed by his new habit of keeping track of the cats in New Jersey.
The index cards that I kept for myself were dated 2003, one is titled Words- multiple synomens(sic) and Over 35 Expressions for Mentally Challenged with Crazy, underlined. On the flip side of the faded card are phrases or euphemisms for Die, written so small I need a magnifying glass. The words are both tragic and humorous, sad for a wife to find that he knew on some level his brain wasn't working right almost ten years before he was diagnosed and never said a word to me, me who thought we shared everything.
This is a poem he wrote during the same time period, perhaps months later because the card is whiter, perhaps much earlier because his handwriting was larger and less shaky:
How long will I live, I do not know.
Does this very thought fill me with woe?
Life arrives and life departs.
It's like a game of darts.
Some land outside the ring,
One to the very center may cling.
It all depends upon the fling,
for what the future is to bring.
So Amazing Grace I sing...
Hoping to defy the status-quo,
Cleverly evading that time below.
But my hair, it turns white,
and my eyes are not quite so bright
Shall I work hard or be lazy?
The outcome seems quite hazy,
When will I, be pushing up the daisy?
By stretching out my time alive
before the deathly moment shall arrive
to extend the passing hours
when I'll lie amongst funeral flowers